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Now Business is Brisk!!

By almcneil
Sep 1, 2007
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  1. Techspotters,

    Not 2 weeks ago I was feeling discouraged, my in-home computer servicing business was averaging less than 3 calls per week during the summer. I was trying to remain optimistic that it would turn around by the beginning of September.

    WOW!! Around August 25th, my business turned brisk!! Now, it's not gangbusters but I'm not averaging 2 calls per day. Most are persons who are returning from vacation and finally getting around to having their PCs fixed up. I'm hoping the back-to-school rush will start. One aspect I've noticed about the home PC servicing market is that there must be a motivation to get your PC serviced. Back-to-school should hopefully do that!

    What a relief! NOw I'm actually MAKING money! I can pay all my bills!!:approve:
     
  2. TimeParadoX

    TimeParadoX TS Rookie Posts: 2,273

    Congrats!!! :)

    How much money do you charge per computer?

    Also do you just tune up / repair or do you do like full inspections and stuff?

    Also you should consider ( when you get alot more money from this ) building computers for people who play games?
     
  3. ravisunny2

    ravisunny2 TS Ambassador Posts: 1,980   +11

    Got to take the good with the bad.


    Cheers.
     
  4. sghiznaneck

    sghiznaneck TS Maniac Posts: 403

    I, too run a computer shop out of my home. Been doing so since last year and one thing you'll have to realize is that during the late spring-summer months, business falls off a bit due to vacations and school being out. Around the middle to late August time frame, it picks back up again. With the kids going back to school and/or the kids not being around as much to help the parents with their computers (assuming they can tinker and fix the easy stuff), the older clients start calling. Just remember this, don't give up, become dispondent or close up shop. Most businesses fail within the first 1-2 years because of too high anticipations. They feel that they will "hit the gate running" and then give up because of fluctuations in the repair market. I've received numerous return clients because at first, they want to feel you out compared to the shops that charge higher rates and due to the fact that they may have been burned by these same shops. Another thing to remember is to advertise. I started out by running a short add on our local cable station and then followed up when the new phone book went to publication. I am now contemplating renting a sign at our local arena where we have a Triple A hockey team. It also sponsors sporting events, concerts, etc. Get the name out there, provide quality work at a decent but competitive price and treat the customers right and they'll come back. I probably receive 25-30% business due to word of mouth from satisfied customers. Remember, your work and attitude will speak for itself.
     
  5. almcneil

    almcneil TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 1,277

    Thanks!

    I charge a flat-rate and it goes against a "principle" problem. I live at Ottawa, Canada. I charge $99 for first time customer. Then it's the repeat rate, $129 weekday daytime, $169 evenings/weekend.

    I do everything. The only caveat is that I don't carry an inventory of hardware, so if it turns out the solution requires a new piece of hardware there's no charge and I leave. But, the customers are so impressed they go out, buy the part and then have me come back and install it so they can pay me. Twice, the customer decided to jump in the car immediately and we went to the local comp store to buy the parts.

    No. I'm an on-site service only. I don't build computers.
     
  6. almcneil

    almcneil TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 1,277

    Exactly. That's what I was warned by a colleague who ran an independent comp store in the same neighbourhood. He said mid-June to late August, the whole home computer industry, sales and service, goes dead flat.

    Tell me about it! It was real tough to stay upbeat during the dead of summer. But I'm 41 and worked in high tech where, even in more typical times, employment was like that. There were times no one was hiring then times I got as many as 4 offers at once! So I'm used to volatility. The home comp servicing biz is a roller coaster, no question about it!

    Thanks for the advice. Yeah, I get a lot of repeat business. I'm very personable and people like me. Also, I give the customer a lot more than they expect. They routinely comment that I exceed their expectations.

    I agree, advertising is a must, especially early on. What I'm doing is delivering fliers (do it myself!) in the neighbourhood. I discovered to do it on a Sunday afternoon when people are outside doing something. That really helps generate the business. I also canvass the following week. I find I need to get face-to-face with customers to convince them to try my biz. I also use a new technique now where I give them some free computer advice. For instance, recommend anti-spyware utilities or image backup if they depend on their computer for work or university. It really helps build trust at the door.
     
  7. almcneil

    almcneil TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 1,277

    It Finally Happened!

    Techies,

    When I started up my in-home PC servicing biz, I decided to give the customer some peace of mind by including some guarantees with my work. The first guarantee is that if I can't fix it, they don't have to pay me. Well, after 5 months, I finally had a service call I couldn't fix and declined to take payment even though the customer offered.

    I got a call from a woman in a panic. Her internal HDD had failed and she was desperate. She depends on her laptop for work. Although it was covered under warranty, BestBuy told her they had to ship it to HP for servicing and that would take at least one week. She couldn't afford that long turnaround. She said she thinking of just getting a new laptop. I told her to just go out and buy a new HDD. She already knew me because I had canvassed her street and spoken to her a the door. I had advised her to use an image backup utility and an external HDD to store her images. She had taken my advice and do that. So I thought this would be a simple call. It wasn't.

    Acronis wouldn't work with her new HDD. We tried in vain about 6 times to start the image recovery by booting from the Acronis CD. Every time I selected her new HDD as the destination, it froze. I then installed Windows XP, installed Acronis and tried it again. Same thing. R&R again, re-install Acronis, same result. I finally had to leave for my next scheduled call but promised to return immediately after it. When I got back she was gone. Her son said she was in a panic and went to the local comp store where she bought the new HDD. They used HDClone and were able to copy the old HDD to the new HDD.

    I then informed her that she didn't have to pay me. She felt guilty as she knew I was trying and there was something not working between Acronis and the new HDD. She offered to pay me anyway. I counter-offered to do some other work for her and then she can pay me for that. But she said she doesn't have anything else. So we agreed that when she has her next problem, she'll call me (I hope!)

    I believe you should only pay for results!
     
  8. sghiznaneck

    sghiznaneck TS Maniac Posts: 403

    Maybe I should move to Canada. I make appointments and try to stick to the AM service calls and PM back at home to work on what's in house. Doesn't always work that way, but most of the time it does.
    There's no way we'd get that much here for a service call. I charge a flat rate of $45 US for every visit. If it can't be fixed there (I use a standard of maximum 45 minutes), the customer then has the option of either letting me take it back to my shop and forgo the service call fee and just pay for parts (if applicable) and labor, or they can have somebody else fix it and then pay me the fee. Actually, it's worked out to my advantage because there are two shops I compete with (another home repair guy and an actual shop), but I gain a lot of business because they charge $60 for each service call, whether or not they do the work. In addition, I also agree about the guarantee, but mine works differently. If I do the work, depending on the type and the hardware required, I guarantee for 6 months on certain jobs and if any major hardware is required (new builds, rebuilds due to power surges/lightening storms, etc) I give them a year. This has actually brought in some decent number of customers/repeat customers who have increased my business because of my policies and their "word of mouth" advertising. I service a few families (brother, sister, etc) and have quite a few older customers. I, myself am 49. Retired from the Federal Civil Service and worked with computers and networking as an Information Management/Network Administrator/computer repair tech for the last 12 years of my tenure. After my retirement in 2004, I thought about opening up my own business for 2 1/2 yrs before actually doing it in late 2006. Should have done it earlier as a part time thing before retirement. Sure, I find myself going against my own posted hours, but I enjoy the work and business seems to leapfrog every couple months. I even get referrals from the other two shops due to the fact that they won't touch certain computers/laptops. Anyone in the area that has a Sony Vaiao desktop or laptop come to me because no one else wants to touch them.
    Oh, and about not being able to fix them; I agree with the don't pay policy, but so far (knock on wood), haven't run into any of those as of yet.
    Good luck and take care.
     
  9. ravisunny2

    ravisunny2 TS Ambassador Posts: 1,980   +11

    Wrong forum for this question, but why didn't Acronis work ?

    I had pretty much decided to fork out the mullah for it.
     
  10. almcneil

    almcneil TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 1,277

    You'd be surprised what people will pay to get their PC fixed!

    One reason I charge what I do is because I learned it from working at a Dell call centre two years ago. When I started, they had just bumped the "per-incident" flat-rate fee (fix one problem no matter how long) from US$29 to US$39 (although the call centre was at Ottawa, Canada, we served the entire US market, Alaska and Hawaii too!) A month later it was $49. Then a month later $59. Then a month later $69. I though no one would pay more than that for tech help over the phone. Then it hit $79! Then it went to $89!! When I left 8 months after I started, it hit $99!! I recently checked and it's now $129!!

    When it comes to PC servicing, people don't price compare. In the 5 months since I started my business, I've canvassed 2,000 homes and only 4 person have complained my prices are too high and 2 other tried to haggle me down. The rest who booked a call never said a word and paid the $99. On repeats, again, they just pay what I charge! One person who I canvassed at the door admitted he worked at Staples and thought my prices were CHEAP!! He said typical service charges there are $160 and higher!

    You're underselling yourself! Bump up your rates! Trust me! Customers will pay it and not complain!

    I disagree. I work a minimum 60 minutes at their home, often longer. I only take their PC to my place if they agree to pay a second service call.
     
  11. almcneil

    almcneil TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 1,277

    I think the reason it didn't work was that the new HDD's master boot record (MBR) either was corrupt or used a different format. I wanted to go back to the customer's place and do a Lavalys Everest summary on the new HDD and send it to Acronis for an answer. But she's not interested. Oh well.
     
  12. almcneil

    almcneil TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 1,277

    I did some thinking about your business model and I think it needs to be revised. You're trying to offer two competing services and it's actually costing you money (called "opportunity cost" in business terms.) You can't offer on-site service and run a repair shop at the same time. I evaluated that when I first started researching my business model and dismissed it. Either you do one or other but not both. If you try then you end up spending too much time in transit not making any money. You don't get paid to travel to/from the customer's home. You earn your money when you actually fix the problem or set something up. Either have the customer bring their comp to your shop or go to their place but don't offer both. You're losing money in a sense when you do that.
     
  13. sghiznaneck

    sghiznaneck TS Maniac Posts: 403

    Believe me, I do understand, but I schedule my service calls in the morning and work out of my shop in the afternoon. The market model you are using may be great for Canada, but it won't work here. One of the reasons many clients call me is because they won't pay for the service call the 2 shops around here charge. Many of my clients are elders (believe it or not), and they just can't or won't disconnect the pc and drive it here (or to another shop for that matter). I'm sure that if I were in a larger city, I could raise my rates, but the market here just isn't at that level. I make out alright. Putting a percentage in the bank for emergencies, inventory and the next years advertising, so I'm not going to complain since I am turning a decent profit even though my rates are fairly low. Where I make a large profit is in building them. I just received 2 orders today and I will say that on a new build, I will average around $250 US for each order. I use the industry standard of 10% markup of parts whereas the 2 shops here use about 30%. I've provided many customers, who are now regulars, with a list of what hardware I will put into the build based on what their needs and uses are, told them to shop around for a pre-built (which I already know they can't find unless they pay an exhorbitant amount for a special order), AND told them to call the 2 shops in the area and tell them you are thinking of building one with the components I've listed for them, and then decide. Usually they either contract me on the spot, or I receive a call on my cell or have a message waiting for me by the time I return to my shop.
    Shortchange myself; maybe, but it's built up a steady business so far, and the first anniversary won't roll around until late November of this year. I receive 3-5 calls a day which lead to 2 or more service calls, and I average at least 2-3 new builds each week. I'm quite pleased. I give them written guarantee (on my receipt I provide to them), and (knock on wood) in my first year so far, not one return for defective or shoddy craftsmanship. On the contrary, it's lead to word of mouth advertising. I find myself servicing other family members and their neighbors, so I'm pretty happy. I will say that after the first anniversary is reached, I believe that I will have a solid client base and can afford to bump up my labor charges. With inflation, it's a given, and if my quality of work at quality prices is as good as it seems to be by the volume and return customers, it shouldn't be a problem.
    Have a great day!!
     
  14. almcneil

    almcneil TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 1,277

    Sghiznaneck,

    I still think you're trying to do too much and charging too little. I don't know the size of Johnstown, PA but still, when people want their PC fixed, they will pay handsomely! I do agree, when it comes to buying a new PC, custom or COTS (Custom Off The Shelf), people shop around and price compare. But when it comes to servicing, they don't! Bump up you rates!

    A colleague of mine who ran an independent store complained he couldn't compete against the big box stores. His mistake was selling COTS. It took me some convincing but I got him to raise his minimum service charge from $25 to $50. After 2 weeks he remarked, "It's working!!" No one complained about it! They just paid it! I then convinced him to raise his installation charges. For instance, he only charged $10 for installing memory. That's way to little for a one piece job. He raised it to $25 and no complaints!

    Seriously, raise your rates. People will pay it and you need to make a living. I learnt at the Dell call centre that you should not feel guilty about charging more for a service that people like. It's not being greedy, it's a matter of making a living. If people will pay it, then it's fair value.
     
  15. sghiznaneck

    sghiznaneck TS Maniac Posts: 403

    I did that in the beginning, but the problem was that I just couldn't create a niche in the local market. I was charging $10 less than the 2 shops in the area, but people just wouldn't any of them, including myself. One advantage about working out of your own home is to be able to claim advertising expenses and a break on federal taxes for running the business out of your own home (depreciation expense). Only problem is that under US Federal Tax Code, you have to Income Average to take advantage, along with amortization income averaging can only be done for 7 years and must be done consecutively, with diminishing gains in years 6 and 7. You see, this is an economically depressed area (steel mill/mining town) and probably 40% (or more) are unemployed or in very low paying jobs (public service/laborers, etc) I do agree that I could bump the rates up, but like I said in my last post, after establishing a steady clientèle (1st anniversary of being in business), I am raising my rates. I feel that at that time my reputation for quality speaks for itself, and the additional rate increase will not cause any consternation. People are happy and they even call me to thank me (new builds especially) because they are pleased with the service and results.
    If all goes well, sometime in year two, I will have to move out of my home and into a shop, but at the present time, I'm willing to deal with the clutter (although my wife gives me hell - don't know why since she receives a percentage to put in the checkbook after I deduct taxes).
    I do agree with you , but I just wish that you could understand the market in this area. Maybe eventually I will open up another store in the closest town (around 35,000 as opposed to the 12,000 here) and I can raise my rates considerably and still compete with the locals.
    I did do some research within the surrounding areas prior to opening up my business. I was searching for a name and found that the oddball names seemed to do better than the normal "PC Clinic" types. I decided on "The Computer Dude", which seemed to reach a specific audience of clients around my own age (and older). I also published in my add the fact that I specialize in gaming pc's, which reached the younger audiences (although in most cases it's mommy and daddy footing the bill).
    Hope to hear from you soon.
     

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